BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNOLOGIST
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
I’m Master Corporal Stephane Lajeunesse from Ottawa, Ontario, and I’m a Biomedical Electronics Technologist currently serving at CFB Petawawa, Ontario.
And I’m Master Corporal Brian Seidel from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I’m a Biomedical Electronics Technologist currently serving at CFB Halifax.
LAJEUNESSE: Biomedical Electronics Technologists, or B.E. Techs, install, maintain and repair the medical, dental and diagnostic equipment in our base clinics and field hospitals, and aboard our Navy ships: that means everything from a stethoscope to the most complex and modern CT scanner.
We’re team players, but we’re also expected to work independently, sometimes travelling with just a tool box, a cell phone, and a credit card.
I think travelling is constant in this trade. We have to maintain large regions, we don’t just stay in our shop.
SEIDEL: We could be in Gagetown one day, we could be in St-John’s, Newfoundland another day – it’s just, as the work shows up, we go to the locations that have the medical equipment.
LAJEUNESSE: And beyond that, we also have to service Geilenkirchen, in Germany. We have to service Alert, up north, we also have Cypress, and Afghanistan of course. And then, any other deployment that requires a clinic, we have to take care of that also.
From the ER to the OR, in dental and physiotherapy clinics, and in mid-ocean on our frigates and destroyers (and even our submarines), every piece of medical equipment has to be checked out regularly and kept in perfect working condition.
Well, at the end of the day, we’re all supporting the front-line soldier, that’s who we’re looking out for. And when that front-line soldier needs to come in for medical care, we’re there to make sure that anything that they need as far as equipment that gets hooked up to them, that they’re getting the best care that they can get, that they have the best piece of equipment working at 110%.
LAJEUNESSE: Every day, you come in and it’s a different piece of equipment you’re working on, in a different type of field.
SEIDEL: One day, it could be an infusion pump, the next day it could be an ECG machine, the next day it could be an x-ray system. When you’re on the civilian side, you usually have one workbench, you work on one or two pieces of equipment, and you do that day-in and day-out.
LAJEUNESSE: Being able to cover such a diversity of equipment, and the opportunities that it presents after the military, also, it makes it very, very attractive.
As a BE Tech, the salary is excellent and the benefit package and pension plan are probably the best you’ll find anywhere. Throw in the opportunity to be upgraded to specialist’s pay as soon as your training is completed, and that’s another great incentive to join.
LAJEUNESSE: You must already have your diploma as a Biomedical Engineering Technologist in hand before you can begin your basic military training.
After that, most of your trade training will be done on the job, starting with a one-year stint at a Canadian Forces base, where you’ll become familiar with the medical and dental equipment currently in use.
After a full year of training, you may be eligible for promotion – with a pay raise to go along with it.
LAJEUNESSE: As a BE Tech, you’ll be attached to a Medical Detachment at an Army or Navy base in Canada, or to the Canadian Field Hospital that’s headquartered in Petawawa.
When I first got here, it was definitely intimidating. A lot of the onus is on yourself, to police yourself, and to train yourself, using the manuals and getting familiar with the equipment. So you definitely got that feeling where you’re responsible and it’s all on you. When you put your name on that piece of equipment, that medical equipment is all yours.
You’re considered deployable as soon as you finish your first year of on-the-job training, so you can expect to travel wherever there’s equipment that needs maintenance or repair.
With so many Forces members in so many places, and with so many different kinds of equipment in use, you’re always going to be challenged to learn new skills.
I’ve managed to accomplish a fair bit in a very short amount of time, but I still have a lot of growth to do in this trade, and there’s still a lot of opportunities to go. There’s a lot more equipment I’d like to be trained on, a lot more specialty courses I’d like to go on, so there’s still plenty to go in this trade, it doesn’t stop.
SEIDEL: Proudest moment would be when I was in Afghanistan and one of the radiologists came to me – they had a problem with the CT machine. It actually broke while they had a patient on the table doing a scan. And I had it fixed within about 12 minutes, so that they could carry out their scan and get him into the operating room. And when you’re in an austere location like that, where you have limited resources – we prove our worth.
LAJEUNESSE: The career in the Canadian Forces allows you to see things that you wouldn’t normally get to see in the civilian world, and experience things that you wouldn’t. Every time I go on the road, it’s like an adventure. I’m going to places I’ve never been. For example, I went to Alert a couple of weeks ago, getting to see all the different animals that I wouldn’t normally get to see, like the wolves and arctic foxes. Everything is an adventure whenever you go on the road, for me, that’s the best part about the trade.